The United States has been considered a key player in the Arctic since it acquired Alaska in 1867. But other nations are flexing their muscles in the region — and some experts are worried that the U.S. could soon be in serious trouble if President Joe Biden doesn’t step up.
Nick Solheim is the founder of the Wallace Institute for Arctic Security, and he told Fox News that maintaining the Coast Guard’s single heavy icebreaker, a machine used to carve out routes for transport ships, is becoming difficult.
“We’re running out of parts to replace…on the Polar Star, our heavy polar security cutter, which is now 40 years old,” Solheim explained.
“It doesn’t look very good right now,” he said of America’s strategic position in the Arctic, according to Fox. “It hasn’t looked very good for the last 10 years, 20 years actually, at this point.”
“Polar Silk Road”
By contrast, Fox reports that both Russia and China are said to be increasing their icebreaking capacity, a move that will give them more leverage over the resource-rich Arctic region.
Solheim, for his part, characterized recent moves by China in the region as posing the “No. 1 biggest threat” to America’s dominance there.
Coast Guard Rear Adm. John Mauger seemed to share Solheim’s concern, telling Fox: “Certainly, we’ve been looking at how China and others view the Arctic.”
Mauger added: “We’ve seen what China has written about the ‘Polar Silk Road,’ their Arctic strategy white paper they published in 2018, linking the Polar Silk Road and their ‘Belt and Road’ initiative.”
Mauger also said it’s clear what China is “doing with company investments to strengthen their position to have access to those resources.”
“Pursuing greater influence”
Canada’s Financial Post has reported that the Canadian government recently blocked an attempt by China to purchase an Arctic gold mine.
What’s more, Fox noted that China has attempted to build airport facilities on the Danish territory of Greenland, and in 2020 managed to take control of a Norwegian airline using several corporations. An unnamed State Department official told Fox: “The PRC [People’s Republic of China] is pursuing greater influence in the Arctic, leveraging its investments in scientific research and critical infrastructure to secure footholds and extend its soft power in the region.”
If Biden doesn’t start beefing up America’s presence in the Arctic now, it may soon be too late.